Regular readers will be aware that I am something of a fan of sport. This has had an effect on the blog and recent posts but for all of those concerned for my welfare following a serious attack of Six Nations fever, I’m happy to report that the fever has eased somewhat following another magnificent Grand Slam! I’d like to apologise at this point to any non Welsh readers as we Welsh are unbearably miserable when we lose and just unbearable when we win.
Although I do follow football reasonably closely, I have to confess that prior to last weekends matches, like most people, I did not know much about Fabrice Muamba. All of that changed at 18.13 on Sunday when 43 minutes into an FA Cup quarter final match between Tottenham and Bolton Wanderers at White Hart Lane, Fabrice collapsed due to a cardiac arrest. Players and fans watched helplessly as Doctors fought to save Fabrice’s life on the pitch with CPR and mouth to mouth.
Although heart attacks are rare in young people they are not uncommon. Every year about 500 people under 30 years of age die as a result of cardiac arrest in the UK. Some of the players and coaches knew Marc Vivien Foe who collapsed and died aged 28 in an international match and the following day a young man died aged 16 in a rugby game. But as always, knowing something is a possibility is no preparation for the reality of seeing a person, supremely fit at one moment and then fighting for his life the next.
The late Bill Shankly, a master of the sound bite, once said; “They say Football’s a matter of life and death – but it’s more important than that”. I know of course that he meant it as a joke but over the years many have lived as if the statement was true. On Sunday, the football community received a reminder that there are things even more important than the ‘beautiful game’. Players and coaches wept and the match itself was abandoned. Fabrice stopped breathing for 78 minutes and his heart was shocked by a defibrillator 15 times.
“Praying for you Fab. Hope he’s OK. Thoughts with him and his family. For all those asking, I know as much as you do. Waiting anxiously for updates from teammates. Fab is a fighter!” (Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden)
“Pray for Fab. God willing he will pull through.” (Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe)
“Hope Fabrice Muamba is OK. Praying for him and his family. Still in shock.” (Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney)
“Doesn’t matter who you support. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t a football fan. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t religious. Pray for Fabrice Muamba.” (Tottenham defender Kyle Walker)
A former team mate Gary Cahill, who now plays for Chelsea, lifted his shirt after scoring a goal to reveal a tee shirt with the message ‘Pray for Muamba’ printed on it.
Thankfully, the news is very good. For Fabrice there is of course a very long way to go and no one is sure at this stage what sort of recovery he will make but the simple fact that we are now talking in terms of recovery is very, very good news. In an article on the BBC website, the seriousness of his condition has been explained and if there were any doubts they have been dispelled. An interview with Dr Jonathan Tobin, the Doctor for Bolton Wanderers, states;
“Dr Tobin said: “It was 48 minutes when he collapsed to reaching hospital and a further 30 minutes after that. He was, in effect, dead at that time.”
He added: “We were fearing the worst and didn’t think we would get the recovery we had. It’s incredible.”
“Dr Tobin said Muamba was given two defibrillator shocks on the pitch, one in the players’ tunnel and a further 12 in the ambulance on the way to hospital but none worked.
The doctor said it was only when medics at London Chest Hospital took over that the situation began to sink in. He added: “I went into the corridor and cried.”
Dr Andrew Deaner, Consultant Cardiologist at London Chest Hospital was at the game as a fan and ran into the pitch to assist the Doctors. In the same article he has said;
“If I was ever going to use the term miraculous it could be used here. He has made a remarkable recovery so far.
“Two hours after [regaining consciousness] I whispered in his ear, ‘What’s your name?’ and he said, ‘Fabrice Muamba’. I said, ‘I hear you’re a really good footballer’ and he said, ‘I try’. I had a tear in my eye.”
So, we have a player effectively dead on the pitch, a call to prayer and a miraculous recovery. The obvious question now is ‘what next? How do we respond these events?’
First and foremost surely we should give thanks. The Lord Jesus was never embarrassed when people poured out grateful thanks; in fact his question is why there aren’t more people giving thanks;
“Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18)
Secondly, our lives should bear witness to all that God has done for us;
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)
We are not saved by what we do, we are saved by what Christ has done. Nevertheless, if we are truly saved, there will be evidence in our lives.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
So, we are saved not by works but for works. We are called to be a different, thankful and changed people.